The concepts for “In the arena” are taken from years of daily journaling and in the moment note-taking in my Moleskine journal, and the lived experience as a leader for most of my working life.
The notes come from a personal process: Curiosity – Collection – Curation – Creation.
“Creating” this email each week, provides the opportunity to “curate” the notes and thoughts I’ve “collected” that have come from the books I’ve read, podcasts I’ve listened to, or conversations I’ve had…i.e. my “curiosity”.
Be a quitter
I have learned to become a quitter.
Like most of us, I grew up with the mantra “winners never quit”, and to quit anything was a stain on your character.
But it takes guts to quit.
Quit the wrong stuff to focus on the right stuff.
It is much easier to roll from day to day, doing stuff that we are used to doing, others think we should be doing, that we are not necessarily good at or enjoy, gives us no energy, isn’t important to us…all because we do not dare to quit.
And we wonder why we feel exhausted.
Ask yourself “What am I best at?”. Perhaps ask ten people who know you well. If it something different to what you get to do now, sounds like you have some work to do.
As David Whyte says “we need to place our identity on the edge of discovery”.
It might mean putting yourself in rugged seas for a while, but you get to find out how strong the anchor is.
Seth Godin has written a terrific book on when to quit and when to hang in called “The Dip”. As an aside, it took him two weeks to write, and is only 90 pages.
Godin introduces the book with a famous quote from Vince Lombardi:
“Quitters never win and winners never quit.”
He follows this with:
“Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”
“You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest? … The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
― David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity
Apologies for overdoing the David Whyte references, but I do love his insight and storytelling.
The Blackwing Pencil
They are the writer’s pencil. The silver 602 pencil. Used by John Steinbeck, the writer who got me interested in writing.
They are the artist’s pencil. The black Matte pencil. Used by Chuck Jones, who drew Looney Tunes, and it was comics and cartoons that got me drawing.
I still write and draw.
They are also lovely pencils. They feel great in your hand, light but balanced. All for a few dollars.
The silver 602 is demanding. “Take out that Moleskine. Write this down, record that thought, tell your story.” It has “Half the pressure, twice the speed” written in gold lettering on the side”. There are no excuses.
In your hand is a timeless tool of creativity, good enough for John Steinbeck and Tom Joad, and inspiring Bruce Springsteen, good enough for Chuck Jones and Daffy Duck.
It does have a competitive disadvantage as compared with most note-taking implements. You do need to sharpen it!
It’s rewards come with effort.
Tell me anything in life that is rewarding that doesn’t take some effort?
And yes, we all need to bring some tactile back into our lives.
Unplug for a minute. Quit the digital.
And watch those minutes become meaningful.
…and a timeless song lyric:
CEO & Founder
Leaders are in the ambiguity business. If we are not doing ambiguity, we are not doing leadership.read more
Leadership finds you wherever you are now but never leaves you where it found you.read more
I have no doubt it was these setbacks, personally challenging and heartbreaking at the time, that created the path to the work I now do.read more
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